You catch yourself thinking that thought again, like a blade turning over and over inside of you. That's just how regret works. It's something I've struggled with for a long time until fairly recently, when I started to fully assimilate my disbelief in free will. It's human nature to regret the past, and to regret mistakes that we've made, but it's also incoherent.
For the first half of 2015, I was consumed with regret about how I treated my ex-girlfriend. I behaved in a way that I'm ashamed of, and when the consequences finally came to bear, I was blindsided by a sudden horrific realization over what I'd done.
I finally managed to move past this by really focusing on assimilating my disbelief in free will. After reading books like Sam Harris's free will, as well as books like The Nonsense of Free Will, I was able to let go of the shame and regret that I held over my past actions. I've achieved a peace with my prior self - a decision to withhold condemnation, and to grant myself compassion. Now that I'm no longer hung up over this, I can experience the catharsis of writing about it in the past tense.
Letting go of yearning, though, is a different kind of skill. It's always a struggle to control your emotions - it's a Herculean, practiced effort, but occasionally missing someone can be a good kind of pain, an addictive kind (that's why people like Adele songs, who I generally can't stand). One of the more toxic mental loops you can find yourself in is imagining what your life would be like together with the person you're pining after. It's a destructive thing, a projection of fantasy that is as unhealthy as it is unrealistic, and I'm sure it's extremely common after bad breakups.
And yet, what if there's some truth to it?
There is an interpretation of Quantum Mechanics that basically states that every possible outcome will be realized in an infinite array of universes. Colloquially referred to as Multiverse Theory, it's a bizarre, but theoretically possible state of affairs.
In practice, then, this means that the mental fantasy you've constructed of you and your ex-lover living happily ever after together - it's a real thing. It's something that exists, not in this universe, but in another one. And every happy little detail that you've imagined is a real feature of this alternate world. If you've conceived of it, that means it's possible, and in the infinite multitude of universes, every potentiality is realized.
Thus, all that could have been becomes something that is, something that really does exist, but in a world that is not our own.
Although it's a beautiful sentiment, it's also disturbing, since presumably this entails that there's a universe where you knife your mother to death over a minor argument or joined ISIS because it seemed like a good idea. The multitudes of possibility include both the extraordinarily good and the horrifically bad, and both being realized feels like an absurdity, but I digress.
Your past is outside your control: a fixed, immutable thing.
Years ago she told you she wanted to marry you, the sun leaking through the cracks in her blinds, white light landing on her porcelain chest. You smiled and didn't say anything, frozen by her sincerity.
And if it doesn't happen, she said, then maybe in the next life.
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis